Drink it Right and Coffee Can Help You Remember Well

By Anupum Pant

With our ever-increasing hours at work, coffee is what keeps most of us running at office. While some revel in the ability to stay hyper active by taking in no dose of caffeine whatsoever, others just can’t live without it. A few days without coffee can turn them into irritated, stressed out and cranky colleagues.

Caffeine in coffee, coke and other energy drinks basically works by tricking your brain into thinking it isn’t tired, even when it badly needs rest. In short, it messes with your brain by creating an artificial brain chemistry to keep you alert. So can it really be good in any way?

Obviously, at such a stage, still keeping up with the intake can harm your brain (up to some extent) without it showing any clear signs. Lack of sleep (at the time when it is needed) can mean, starving brain of the time to perform several essential processes – Memory consolidation being one of them. As a result, lack of sleep means, you are not forming strong memories.

So, how does it help you remember well when it doesn’t let you form strong memories?

According to Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain science at John Hopkins University, and his team, caffeine can indeed have positive effects on your memory. The trick lies in limiting your intake of coffee. In a study, they have been able to show that caffeine intake can enhance certain kinds of memories even when tested after a day.

Study in short: In a double-blind trial where subjects were given caffeine tablets or placebos and were shown images of a few objects. It was found that people who were given caffeine doses showed a deeper lever of memory retention on the other day than people who were given placebos.

Since caffeine isn’t very effective after about 6 hours, people feel a need to replenish their bodies with more of it. It seems as if it is addictive, but as Hank says, technically, it isn’t. You can positively keep on drinking red bulls for the whole day and not get addicted to it. It will make you cranky for a day or two, but you won’t experience any long-lasting effects. The thing is, if you drink a lot of it, you’ll not sleep well and give your brain enough time to consolidate memories. So, since it isn’t really addictive, a good idea would be to limit the intake.

Solution: The crux of it comes down to keeping your intake of coffee to about 200 mg a day. That means, a cup of strong coffee or 2 small cups of normal coffee every day, is actually good for your brain.  As the recent research shows, it helps you remember well. That much, will help you consolidate memories during sleep (at the same time, it won’t mess with your sleep). Anything more than that will probably mess with your activities and anything less than that will have no effect on your memory. [Video]

Productivity: A Doze of Cuteness is good before Work

By Anupum Pant

If you like to secretly surf the /r/aww page at work, well, science says, it no longer has to be a secret activity. An experiment conducted by researchers at Hiroshima University is a perfect scientific document to convince your boss to allow you a dose of cuteness at work. So here’s a picture of a bunny with a backpack. bunny with a backpack

Note: Cuteness also causes “cute aggression

According to the study conducted by scientists at Hiroshima University, looking at cute pictures could make you work better. More specifically, cute pictures inspire fine tuned attention and careful behavior.

The study conducted three experiments to check the effects of cute pictures on tasks performed afterwards:

1. A few university students were asked to perform tasks which required a careful coordination of small muscular movements (eg: small finger movements), before and after viewing images of baby or adult animals; performance was measured. It was found that performance measured using the number of successful trials increased after viewing cute images. A performance increase of about 45% was measured. “Less cute pictures” had a positive effect too. But this was found to be much lesser than the performance increase measured after watching cute pictures – around 12% increase.

2. The second experiment was conducted on the same lines, except that the performance task was changed. This time subjects were asked to perform counting tasks. For example, they were given an array of numbers and were asked to count the number of times the number 3 appeared in it. Again, cute and less cute pictures resulted in a performance increase of 15% and 2% respectively.

3. In the third experiment a global-local letter task (more about it here) was given to the subjects. The results showed that the students performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images.


The study propelled the lead researcher, Hiroshi Nittono, to find an proper reasoning for this effect; he implies that since humans are hard-wired to speak & deal slowly & carefully when they are around little babies, they are inclined to do the same with other tasks after looking at cute things.

Valporate – Performance Enhancing Drug for Perfect Pitch

By Anupum Pant

Today we find out if it would be a good idea to impress your friends during the next gathering by hacking your brain with pills to learn a rare ability fairly quickly. But first, pay attention to the following jargon.

Perfect pitch

Perfect pitch is an exceptional ability among few gifted humans that enables them to recognize and re-create the pitch of a musical note instantly without the help of any external reference. There have been no cases of adults learning this ability by practice. However, pseudo absolute pitch can be learnt with great practice and only retained through regular use.

Brain plasticity

Learning to recognize musical notes, or any other ability for that matter can be reasonably easy at an early age due to a brain’s plastic state. The brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience is far better at younger ages. As people age, they lose the ability to learn like kids.

For instance, picture the rate at which infants learn language. By the time they turn 2 – 4 years old, they start using thousands of words. Try learning a new language at the age of 35. It is tough.

However, a new research suggests that this state of brain can be recovered by using drugs. One such drug, according to Dr. Takao Hensch is Valporate.

Is Valporate a Performance Enhancing Drug?

No! it is not a performance enhancing drug. Valporate or Valporic acid is a drug sold under the common names – Depakote, Depacon and Stavzor. For several years it has been used to treat various disorders from migraines to bipolar disorder. It is a chemical substance that can cross the blood–brain barrier. As a result, it has the power to affect an individual’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior.

Dr. Takao Hensch, a Harvard University professor, recently published a study which tested the effects of Valporate on 23 healthy male subjects for two weeks. None of them had a musical experience. During this period they were trained in music. At the end of this study, researchers found that these 23 men did remarkably better than an average adult would do, at perfect pitch tests.

In the future

He thinks, may be 10 years down the line, this drug could be used to enhance other learning abilities like language learning among adults, by changing the state of their brains.

Presently, studies on how the brain changes at cellular level when this drug is taken are underway. Also, Dr. Hensch thinks that humans have evolved to experience these learning stages for a reason. If it is okay to mess around with it, is still being studied. At this stage, trying this out at home can be extremely risky. It would be wise for us to wait for scientists to come out with a comprehensive study on the effects of this drug.


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